Ed Koch Theater Reviews: “The Capeman” BY Edward I. Koch

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The Capeman” (+)

In 1998, I went to see Paul Simon’s Broadway musical, “The Capeman.”  The critics hated it, but I loved it.

In his review of the play, Ben Brantley tore it apart writing, “It would take a hard-core sadist to derive pleasure from the sad, benumbed spectacle that finally opened last night at the Marquis Theater, three weeks behind schedule.”  He went on to say, “The Capeman is no fun even as a target.”

Brantley was so wrong.  Looking back it was as though he had led a lynching party.



“The Capeman” is the story of a 16-year-old Puerto Rican boy, Salvador Agron, who had the mind of a 12-year-old.  Joining a gang was essential to surviving in the barrio of East Harlem.  Sal (the Capeman) killed at least one teenage boy in 1959 during a gang fight in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City.  The lead role of Salvador Agron was played by three different people at different moments in time.  Evan Jay Newman portrayed him as a young boy, Marc Anthony, whose voice was glorious, played him as an adolescent, and Ruben Blades portrayed him as a middle-aged man.  Sal, who was condemned to death after his trial, had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment by Governor Nelson Rockefeller.  He was eventually released from prison.

The music by Paul Simon, and the lyrics by both Simon and Derek Walcott, are extraordinary in their beauty, content and intensity.

This past Saturday, Simon’s folk opera was presented by the Public Theater at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.  The performance was presented for only three days in an effort to encourage theater investors to return it to Broadway.  I certainly hope they do.  If they succeed, put me down for a $1,000 contribution or maybe even $5,000, if the latter amount would allow me to see the show at least once a month without buying a ticket.

The current show involved not only acting and singing but stirring choreography as well.  The role of the 16-year-old Salvador was played by the skinny, perfect performer, Ivan Hernandez.  Sal’s superstar mother, Esmeralda, was played by Natascia Diaz.  The mother of one of the murdered teenagers sings a song entitled, “Can I Forgive Him?”  No one, after hearing her sing of her torment, will ever forget that song.

If this show returns to Broadway and you don’t see it, you are making a big mistake.  In the meanwhile, get the Paul Simon voice only tape of the musical which I have been listening to in my car for the past 12 years.

Let me know your thoughts at eikoch@bryancave.com.

The Honorable Edward Irving Koch served New York City as its 105th Mayor from 1978  to  1989.

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eHeziEd Koch Theater Reviews: “The Capeman” BY Edward I. Koch

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